The 7 best train journeys to explore the East (2023)

With more than 50 years of service experience, Amtrak presents the seven best train rides in the East, all of them short, perfect for family travel. We know that families with children and adults love trains. So as a parent, avid train traveler, and vacation enthusiast, I'm sharing some of my favorite family train adventures available in the eastern United States.

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Ride the rails on the eastern train rides

I'm sure you've heard ofAmtrak, the national rail carrier, connecting the United States with 21,000 route miles in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces.

Did you know that Amtrak runs more than 300 trains to more than 500 destinations every day? Of interest to families, Amtrak runs more trains in the eastern states than elsewhere.

Whether you live there or are planning a visit, these tours are a great introduction to train travel. With my specific criteria, the eastern train journeys described should be affordable for the whole family. They are relatively short and are sure to entertain your kids from the first utterance of "All aboooard."

Take the train? Why, if we have a car?

While a car gives you mobility, for example when you are on the train, it is nice to walk and stretch those legs. Instead of the usual traffic-filled car ride, train travel offers a great opportunity for the whole family to look out the windows and see the fabric that is our America.

With the driver working in the front of the train, there is no adult responsible for driving. Almost all of the Amtrak trains listed offer reasonably comfortable seats and a cafeteria car, with a selection of food, snacks, and beverages.

Even if your kids don't belong to Greta Thunberg's children's rights movement, they probably know that train travel is much greener than CO2-burning road and air transport.

In fact, all eastern train journeys from Washington DC to Boston on Amtrak use electric propulsion power, without fossil fuels. Not only are you saving wear and tear on the road, you're saving the planet on these trips.

So, just like you would on a road trip with young kids, I've added kid-friendly destinations to keep their interest and break up the journey for some off-road adventures.

A weekend getaway to New England from New York City?

The beautiful new Moynihan Train Hall in New York City handles more Amtrak passengers than any other station in the US. They have scheduled more Eastern trains than any other station on the National System. Adjacent to Pennsylvania Station, Moynihan Hall revives the nostalgia of long-distance rail travel in the 21st century. It's a natural place to start family adventures..

If you can splurge on convenience and speed, you'll want to take one of the Acela high-speed trains. Tickets are cheapest (though expensive) in business class seats (no bus offered). (Please note that child discounts, see below, do not apply to Acela trains from Monday to Friday.)

Acelas is fast! New York to Boston is just over four hours in the Acela; Providence is about three and a half, slightly more on the Northeast Regional trains in both cases.

New York > Providence; Train trip New York > Boston

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On train rides in the Northeast, the Acela's huge kid-friendly windows provide great views of southern New England, plus a charming peek at small towns and beaches along Long Island Sound as you cruise along the Connecticut coast.

Providence, Rhode Island also offers a great stopover on this run, with the kid-friendly Providence Children's Museum and the Roger Williams Zoo.

Staying in Boston? A wide variety of children's activities, museums, restaurants appear on almost every block, a great place for the little ones to learn about history and culture.

An overnight trip on the east train is certainly exciting

One of my favorite train destinations? You'll want to visit Pennsylvania, one of my favorite destinations.

Head west from New York's Penn Station on a three-hour trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania on Amtrak's Keystone trains. Lancaster is the closest train station to Strasburg PA.

While the coastal view is lacking, I expect views of the New Jersey suburbs, the great city of Philadelphia, and the picturesque farmlands of Pennsylvania to fill the younger surroundings with an ever-changing landscape. As a New Jersey native, the views from Jersey Meadowlands, just outside New York City, to the Delaware River offer me young travelers a microcosm of the geography of the eastern United States.

Train adventures in Strasbourg, Pennsylvania

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Why did we travel to Strasburg, Pennsylvania, a great place for kids? It's the most train-friendly place in the United States!

It is believed to be localStrasbourg railway line,The Pennsylvania Railroad Museum, HimNational Museum of Toy TrainsjHet Red Caboose-motel, where the family can stay together in a caboose. Also, don't miss the Casey Jones Cafe. It's Nirvana for kids big and small!

The motel is within walking distance of all three attractions. Autumn is the best time to visit. Is whenThomas the Tank Enginegives future engineers the chance to ride behind the legendary steam locomotive and get an up-close look at the Strasburg Railroad. If you theThomas and Friends book serieswhich originated in England and has been translated all over the world, please do so.

The Railway Museum features beautifully preserved real locomotives and carriages, both inside and out, and the Toy Train Museum is full of replicas of various sizes, some of which ride on complete model train scenery, called "patterns", that create the sounds and smells. from a bygone era.

For parents and grandparents please note; Unlike other trains mentioned, the Keystone trains in New York and Philadelphia do not offer food or drink, so bring some snacks and drinks for everyone.

Train travel from Washington, DC

What about capital ideas for train travel in the East? If you live in or are visiting the Greater Washington DC metropolitan area, including the District of Columbia and parts of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, there are fun train ride options for the whole family to relatively close destinations in the second Amtrak's largest destination.

Whether you want to take a break from the routines of home or are a visitor visiting the manywonderful free attractionsIn our country's capital, here are some overnight and overnight train alternatives that can easily be part of your visit.

Train from DC to Baltimore

Do you want a short trip with fun family activities?

Baltimore is served by both Amtrak andBAGS(Maryland Area Regional Commuter), which sails through northeastern Washington, then passes through the suburbs of both cities en route to Baltimore

Travel times range from 40 minutes to about an hour, and both rail companies depart from Washington's magnificent Union Station and arrive at Penn Station in Baltimore, just north of downtown.

A taxi ride from the station will take you to the city's museums; Little railroad men will love theBaltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum. Young scientists will enjoy othersFamilieattracties in Baltimorelike theMaryland Science Center, and everyone will enjoy theDiscovery Port Kindermuseum, steps away from the fantasticNational aquarium. And those are just a few of the many museums in Baltimore that are meant to keep every member of the family entertained on a day trip or overnight trip.

MARC offers less frequent service than Amtrak. However, it is less expensive and worth a look, especially if there are no commuter trains where you live. MARC is a very different experience than sitting on an Amtrak train.

Washington DC > Delaware and beyond Eastern rail travel

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Ride the Amtrak Acela high-speed train for the most comfortable ride. If you want to venture a little further afield, another Acela splurge offers extraordinary views of the Chesapeake Bay a 75-minute drive to Wilmington, Delaware.

Wilmington is home to theDelaware Kindermuseum, easily accessible via a panoramic walk along the redevelopedchristian river.

If you want to fit Philadelphia into a weekend, just half an hour past Wilmington is historic Philadelphia, filled with many wonderful museums, countless eateries, and enough activities to keep everyone entertained.

Both cities are also easily accessible by train from New York City, for a nice long day trip or family weekend.

Short trips south of Washington DC > Richmond

If you want to travel south, a two-hour drive will take you to Richmond, Virginia. Amtrak offers frequent service from DC. A scenic drive past many Civil War sites and before you know it you'll be at Richmond station.

A short taxi ride away is a unique museum worth visiting in Richmond: theAmerican Civil War Museum in historic Tredegar. Many other museums, restaurants and activities are also available here. Richmond offers a glimpse of the South as it was and as it is today.

A short train ride east past Richmond? Williamsburg, Virginia

Also worth a visit, if you have at least one night, is Williamsburg, Virginia. The fascinating modern and historic city is an hour by train from Richmond. Little history buffs will be able to experience life as it was in the 18th centuryWilliamsburg Colonial, a historic reenactment village and living history museum with entertainment, history, historic restaurants and lodging on site.

This would be another budget splurge, but it makes for a great vacation week when combined with the contemporary art, dining, and craft brewery scene in Williamsburg, Historic Triangle locations injamestownjyork cityand theThemapark Busch Gardens Williamsburgand water park.

The region is especially interesting for school children who have studied the arrival of the first settlers, slavery, the American Revolution, the origins of democracy or the independence movements of the colonies. Dressed in period costumes, historical interpreters explain how things were made long ago and are happy to answer children's questions.

Tips for traveling by train from the Family Travel Forum

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It always pays to book your Amtrak tickets online or in person in advance. Young train fans will probably enjoy visiting their local station to plan and purchase tickets for their next trip.

On Amtrak, with few exceptions, one child ages 2-12 travels at a 50% discount on the lowest available adult train fare with each paying adult (age 18 and older). Single parents traveling with more than one child pay the full fare for additional children. However, infants under 2 years old travel for free; one infant per adult at full rate. Any additional infants under 2 years old will be charged 50% of the full rate. Occasionally, the Amtrak website offers special fares that may be cheaper.

And when you're ready to go big,Amtrak.comoffers current travel deals such as the 10-segment US Rail Pass ($499) that is valid for 30 days.

Our next stations on this journey?

Please share your comments! If you're interested in more train trip ideas for tweens, teens, and lifelong train fans, our next section will provide tips on what longer trips to take in the continental United States. This link will take you to meFavorite train rides in the western US

Ralph Spielman is a retired Fortune 500 corporate travel manager, lifelong train enthusiast, volunteer teacher at Grand Central Terminal, and volunteer on The High Line, both in New York City. He has traveled on many large and small trains in Asia, Europe, North America and Australia.

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1 Reply to "7 Best Train Trips to Explore the East"

  • Co

    May 8, 2020 at 6:30 am

    With a rugged hinterland boasting 286 peaks over 3,000 meters, Taiwan's rail system wedges into the coastal fringes where most of Taiwan's cultural life is concentrated. Whether you take the high-speed service from Taipei City to the second city of Kaohsiung or spend a week slowly traveling around the island on a local train, all journeys are within sight of the cobalt blue Pacific Ocean, the plains of verdant paddy fields, or imposing hills


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